Working in South Woodford, you’d think I would have discovered the quirky little town of Wanstead ages ago with it being literally down the road. I’d always known of it but never exactly where it was or what was there.
I first came across Wanstead high street for a work colleague’s birthday, who decided to go somewhere local so that the whole office would come. We ended up in probably the nicest pub I’ve ever been to so close to home, The Manor House. I’d describe it as a trendy pub with fine food, character & a great deal of history behind it. A bit on the pricier side but you get what you pay for due to it’s uniqueness. It is something you would expect of an up & coming, gentrified area like Hackney.
On the way there I noticed a ton of little restaurants; some old & victorian looking, some uber modern & fresh. That is when a brilliant analogy occurred to me: that Wanstead High Street is basically a closer & slightly more classy Shoreditch!
Out of all the restaurants down the road, there was one that stuck out the most to me & that was Piccolo Ristorante.
Normally I would avoid anything that is plastered in the flag of where it’s cuisine originated from because to me, it just looks tacky. However this feeling was soon disregarded once I saw how perfectly it was decorated inside. I’d describe it as the equivalent of a small hidden gem on the back streets of Italy somewhere in between a posh restaurant & your local pizzeria.
As it is so quaint & small, I thought I would book a table to avoid disappointment. I called at 5 but no one answered so I checked their opening times online. They open for early lunch then close again in preparation for the dinner trade. I then called again at 6 when they had reopened, to speak to very accommodating staff who managed to squeeze me & my boyfriend in on a cosy table 20 minutes later!
As soon as we were seated, we were served some complimentary fresh, crispy bread which was a nice, light start. The closest thing I could compare it to was pitta bread. Any restaurant which starts you off with something for free signifies that there are only good things to come!
I have to admit, as much as I love a proper authentic Italian, I am quite a sucker for the Prezzos chain due to the discounts I am forever receiving via e-mail. On those weekdays where I can’t be bothered to cook, Prezzos is normally my go to as no matter where you are ,you are never too far from one & you generally can’t go wrong. Every time I go I order calamari & prawns either as a starter or as part of my main meal, so it only made sense that I tried these at Piccolo also to see how a real Italian compared.
It was definitely Piccolo FTW.
Calamari Fritti – Fresh Deep Fried Squid
Langoustines Burro E Aglio – King Prawns with Butter & Garlic
Now I love prawns, but I absolutely hate peeling them. I know this means that they are the freshest they can possibly be but that is a job you will never catch me doing. Once I got my boyfriend to do the dirty work of peeling them, I was able to savour the marvellous marinade of garlic & butter. As I took a bite into the mighty, meaty prawn, I knew I had made the best choice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for the calamari. Don’t get me wrong it was still lovely & just the quality I would expect for a meal out, but it lacked originality. It was served with a condiment of garlic mayo which I am personally bored of as most places you order calamari from serve this so it is nice to see it served with something different from time to time.
Spaghetti Dolores – Spaghetti with King Prawns, Courgette, Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic Oil & Chillies
Pizza Al Prosciutto E Funghi – Tomato, Mozzarella Cheese, Ham & Mushrooms
This was probably the cheesiest pizza I have ever eaten in my life & for that reason, it has to be up there as one of my ultimate favourites. I honestly don’t know how they got the consistency so spot on. Due to the amount of cheese on it, I expected it to be soggy & difficult to eat but it wasn’t at all – the base somehow managed to stay crispy & I could pick up each slice without it flopping (which might I add was great for witnessing the stringy mozzarella separating from the base😍).
If the pizza was to have anything more than 2 toppings on, it easily could have been too starchy & filling. It was perfect to have such a thin bit of meat like the parma ham & a soft, non – crunchy topping like the juicy mushrooms.
I only tried a little piece of the spaghetti, but from just this small amount & my pleasant experience with the prawns for starters, it instantly topped my regular Prezzos spaghetti with prawns! The fish was amazingly fresh whilst the pasta & sauce oozed with traditional Mediterranean flavours of garlic & tomato.
Vanilla Cheescake – Homemade Cheesecake Served with Strawberries and Raspberry Couli
Out of all the dishes of the night, this was certainly the most well presented. As I said in my last food post, if a restaurant has crème brûlée on the menu, I am 110% ordering it. Unfortunately to my disappointment, my favourite dessert was nowhere to be seen so I opted for the vanilla cheesecake as pictured above which I would never normally go for.
When the boyfriend & I visited Copenhagen in Denmark last year, we came across this cute little coffee place along the canal (Nyhavn) where we asked for a traditional Danish cake to accompany our cappuccinos.
We were presented with some kind of berry pie or really thick cheesecake which on first sight, didn’t look very appealing, but was surprisingly amazingly tasty! As I have said time & time again, never judge a book by it’s cover! As a result when we saw cheesecake with berries at Piccolo, we knew what we had to do & it certainly didn’t disappoint – not too heavy & even quite healthy (ish) with the fruit on the side!
Overall, we had a great evening at Piccolo, Wanstead. The staff were attentive, the food was delicious & the wine was great albeit a bit strong. However I have now come to the conclusion that as Italy is inundated with vineyards, any wine I get from an authentic Italian restaurant will always be a little stronger!
I would definitely recommend visiting Piccolo for a romantic meal out with your other half, for a lovely treat for mum on mother’s day next week or just to experience the perfect cheesy pizza!
Call them on 0208 9899 989 to #discoverdifference for yourself or message them via their website at http://bit.ly/2myazut. Visited before? Share your experience in the comments below.